Be the Change….part 3 of 3

Can we talk about ways to walk against the current because we want to Be the Change? I hope you’ll share your ways too, so we can all learn from you.

On airplanes, I hate that they keep bringing everyone cup after cup of water. I keep my cup and ask for refills. (I wish I could bring water from home, but obviously that’s not possible.) Flight attendants say, “I’ll bring you a fresh one,” and I explain, “No thanks, I’m trying to make a small carbon footprint.”

Some just give me a strange look because they may not be familiar with the term. I don’t know where it comes from, but to me it means walking lightly on the earth. Not leaving deep tracks that hurt the next generations. Minimizing the amount of fossil fuels that had to be pulled out of the Earth just because I lived here.

I don’t want to take more than my “fair share” of resources. It means I don’t use stuff with lots of packaging.

What are things YOU do, to opt out of so much use of fossil fuels, so many throw-away items heaping up the landfills, so much excess?

Some of mine:

I always re-use water bottles (until I lose them or they break). I fill them with filtered, alkaline water from home, rather than the kind that has to be flown and trucked all over the world. (And which cost twice as much as gasoline, by the way!) When traveling, I try to buy gallons of filtered water rather than water bottles. Over 1 million water bottles go to landfills daily.

I refuse the napkin they give you with the drink on airplanes. In a restaurant, I take just one napkin, and look for ways to minimize the amount of throw-away stuff I’m given to hold my food.

I avoid overeating.

I eat plants, since eating animals is one of the most unsustainable practices there is. (It takes 20 lbs. of plants, and 1,000 gallons of water, to make 1 lb. of meat!)

I reuse grocery bags indefinitely. I refuse them if my items can fit in my purse. Or I take my reuseable ones.

I buy very little that comes in boxes or cans.

I recycle.

I don’t take a newspaper anymore and choose paperless billing.

I garden, organically.

I compost. I take other people’s bags of leaves, and compost them, too. (I let my own leaves compost in the lawn.)

I don’t spray for bugs.

I use organic, biodegradable cleaners and soaps.

I teach my kids to do all this stuff.

I would love to hear your ways of leaving a smaller carbon footprint? I want to learn more, do more.

Dear GreensmoothieGirl for Arizona, part 2 of 4

[By the way, that video I blogged on Sunday? Alternatives for milk? We had the wrong video up, but now it’s right!]

Amy: What’s the right balance of macronutrients?

GSG: Americans have been duped into thinking we need 20% protein. Dr. Robert Atkins spread that far-and-wide, popularizing the way fast-food-enamored America wanted to eat anyway. (Too bad bacon-and-eggs are NOT a way to health.) Poorly educated bodybuilders and personal trainers continue to perpetuate this skewed diet that consumes far more resources than is sustainable. (20 pounds of plants are needed to produce 1 pound of animal flesh for you to eat.)

There are two ways to achieve that 20%. One, eat a lot of processed protein products (bars and powders and drinks). Or a boatload of animal flesh (this is what most Americans are doing–many of them at all three meals).

Colin Campbell’s Oxford-Cornell China Project is the biggest nutrition study in history, documenting with both animals and then people that a high animal protein diet is linked to cancer, heart disease, and auto-immune diseases.

Read my review of that study here. Dr. Douglas Graham has begun to shift the obsession with macronutrients to a more appropriate breakdown. (He’s a raw vegan.) He advocates for 80-10-10–which is essentially just validating the perfect balance found in nature if you eat a fair variety of plant foods. The average plant food has 10% protein (and about 80% carbs, 10% fats). Greens, of course, have much lower fat and much higher protein.

If you are struggling to accept that 10% protein is perfect, consider that the World Health Organization states that 5% is ideal! Also, carbs aren’t bad. Carbs are your body’s FUEL and should be your predominant macronutrient. Just eat complex carbs, not refined ones that spike-n-crash blood sugar and insulin. That takes a toll on your energy and ages you quickly.

Very frankly, I pay very little attention to macronutrients. I guess I have a sense of what a balanced meal/snack is. For instance, I don’t eat fruit all day. I make sure to get nuts/seeds, greens, lots of veggies, and often some grains/legumes in my diet. But besides making sure each snack or meal is 60-80% raw, and purchasing and eating whole foods, I don’t worry about macronutrient breakdown.

(Do you think Adam and Eve did? Do you think your grandparents did? To me it’s a national neurosis–I’d rather see you focus on other things, because if you follow correct basic principles, macronutrients take care of themselves.)

Need motivation to eat less meat and more plants? . . . part 11 of 12

Today, more info on world hunger and why you’re contributing to overconsumption of resources  eating high on the food chain:


Number of people whose food energy needs can be met by the food produced on 2.5 acres of land, if the land is producing . . .


Cabbage                     23 people

Potatoes                      22 people

Rice                               19 people

Corn                             17 people

Wheat                         15 people

Chicken                         2 people

Milk                                 2 people

Eggs                                  1 person

Beef                               1 person


Grain needed to adequately feed every person on the planet who dies of hunger annually: 12 million tons


Amount Americans would have to reduce their beef consumption to save 12 million tons of grain: 10 percent


Amount of fish caught per person, worldwide, sold for human consumption (1996): 16 kg

Amount of marine life that was hauled up with the fish and discarded, per person (1996): 200 kg


Amount of world’s fish catch fed to livestock: 50%, more than the combined weight of the U.S. human population


Newsweek quote: “The amount of water that goes into a 1,000 pound steer would float a (Naval) destroyer.”

Need motivation to eat less meat and more plants? . . . part 10 of 12

Today, stats about hunger in the world, and how this is related to a plant-based diet:


Number of UNDERFED and malnourished people in the world: 1.2 billion

Number of OVERFED and malnourished people in the world: 1.2 billion

Both groups have high levels of sickness and disability and shortened life expectancies


Weight of the world’s cattle compared to weight of the world’s people: nearly double


Area of Earth’s total land mass used as pasture for cattle/livestock: 50%


Grassland needed to support one cow under optimal conditions: 2.5 acres

Grassland needed to support one cow under much more common marginal conditions: 50 acres


Pounds of grain needed to produce 1 lb. of beef: 17

U.S. corn eaten by people: 2 percent

U.S. corn eaten by livestock: 77 percent

U.S. farmland producing vegetables: 4 million acres

U.S. farmland producing hay for livestock: 56 million acres


U.S. grain and cereals fed to livestock: 70 percent

Human beings who could be fed by the grain and soybeans eaten by U.S. livestock: 1,400,000,000


World’s population living in the U.S.:   4 percent

World’s beef eaten in the U.S.: 23 percent

Are Europeans healthier than we are?

So as you can see, Europeans have fast food.   McD’s is found in 10 locations in the very hip and cosmopolitan city of Barcelona, for instance.   They don’t have nearly as many chains or locations as we do, though.


I have a weird little game I played in airports and train stations all over Europe and in the U.S.   I counted groups of 100 people and keep a tally of how many of them are overweight/obese, just to compare countries.   I don’t do this to be mean-spirited, nor do I think it’s the most statistically sound experiment ever.   People in airports are probably leaving out the oldest citizens, for instance, creating something less ideal than a true random sample, although this should be uniformly true everywhere, so the results are skewed across the board.   And I can’t ferret out the tourists from the natives.   (However, very few Americans are traveling in Europe now to skew my results, with the weak dollar, I found.)   This is what I found very consistently (and I repeated the experiment over and over to see if any of my samples of 100 are outliers):


United States:   over 50% are overweight, some obese (this is not new information to you)

France, Spain, Italy:   about 15% are overweight

England:   about 20% are overweight


Italians in northern Italy are big meat eaters (the southern Italy diet, famed as “Mediterranean,” is much more plant based).   Everywhere you drive in the top half of the country, corn fields are growing–not to feed the people, but to feed the livestock (and ethanol refineries, I’m sure).   The French really do eat a lot of white bread products.   They have junk food accessible everywhere.   Why, then, are the vast majority of them thin and relatively fit?   These are my theories.


Where Europeans have Americans (and Canadians and Aussies) beat:

They have portions under  control, they eat more vegetables, and they exercise more (lots of walking and bike riding going on)


Where Americans have the Euros beat:

Less smoking  

Europeans are certainly struggling with high levels of heart disease and cancer.   Their smoking rate is incredible, whereas that’s the one marker that the U.S. has seen strong gains: our smoking rate has gone down consistently during the past two decades.


Honestly, I think part of the portion control is achieved simply because they CAN’T AFFORD to eat more!   Overuse of anything is rather socially taboo (those tiny little Smart Cars are everywhere), and a can of Coke is $4-$5 (about 3 euros or so) at any gas station.   And with exorbitant fuel costs, the Europeans long ago started riding bikes and walking.   In Italy, all the cars are tiny.   I never saw a single Suburban or Expedition, or even a Honda Pilot like mine.   No wonder the birth rate is negative in that country–the cars won’t fit any children!   Roads are narrow and would never allow the big honkin’ cars we drive here.   And the shops don’t have parking–I never saw a Walmart or its trademark small-city-sized parking lot, though I’m sure Walmart exists  somewhere in  Europe.

I’m buying a scooter next spring to reduce my usage of nonrenewable energy.   (I already drive the highest-mpg mid-size SUV on the market.)   I’m going to learn to buy a bag or two of groceries and put them in my scooter on my way home from the gym or work every day or two, rather than the usual bigger shopping trips.   My inlaws can’t believe I’m going to ride to the university 20 mins. away on a scooter, but I’m going to try it.

Today, the first day of school, my children are walking to school, and they’ve been informed that’s our New Normal.   We’ve always been pretty green, with the plant-based diet, gardening, composting, avoiding packaged foods, and eating weeds.   But I’m inspired to get GREENER.    Do you have two garbage cans going to the curb each week rather than just one?   If so,  you might want to consider doing the same.   What’s cool is when you can send your one garbage can out every OTHER week because you use so little that comes in boxes, cans, and bottles.


Is Europe healthier than the U.S.?

Ciao, hola, bon jour, and cheerio!   We had an amazing time in six countries of Europe (Slovenia and Croatia not represented in those greetings, because I wasn’t there long enough to pick up any vocab).   But we were so ecstatic to arrive home to our FAVORITE country that we almost kissed the dirty floor of the airport!


I’m now more thankful than before for abundantly available ice, predictable traffic, nonsmokers, free and easy-to-find public restrooms and drinking fountains, and my dollar actually BUYING me something, just to name a few.   I have newfound respect, however, for conservation–of space, resources, water, land, and gasoline.   I think I may never complain about $4/gal. gas again, since Europeans are paying $9/gal.!


You will be thrilled to know that a certain brand of American capitalism is alive and well in Europe (see photos below in Florence, Venice, Versailles, Barcelona, and London).   So if we’ve so successfully exported some of the worst parts of our culture, why are they still so much healthier than we are?   More on that tomorrow.

What do YOU spend on groceries?

I have wondered this for years and was so interested and enlightened to learn, on a Yahoo group I belong to, what others spend on groceries in a month.   Only a handful answered the question, but the answers ranged widely, from $1,000/mo. for a family of 4, to $400/mo. for a family of 7.

Unless you’re new and not a subscriber to 12 Steps to Whole Foods, you know that part of my passion for teaching families to eat a health-promoting, plant-based diet, is helping them do so INEXPENSIVELY, within a budget, since the moms who are teaching the kids are usually in the stage of life where money is a scarce resource and must be accounted for carefully.

Maybe it’s a taboo subject, but if so, I’ll try to  pave the way  with some self-disclosure:  my family of 6 spends $800/mo. on groceries, on average (less in the summer, more in the winter).   It’s also important to note that all of  my kids are athletes and big eaters, two of them teenagers.   (Shouldn’t a teenager count as 2 people?!)

We save by gardening, participating in a CSA, buying in bulk and stocking up, and preparing meals from scratch.   We preserve and freeze food in our basement cold storage, second fridge, and upright freezer. As you probably are now aware, we eat whole foods and don’t buy meat, dairy, or boxed/canned processed foods.   All of the budget is whole plant foods except for the occasional church social, extended-family, or after-soccer-game food assignment.  We grow organic, but we don’t always buy organic.   We splurge by going to Sweet Tomatoes once a week, and I’m actually not counting that in the budget.

Please write here what you spend, and give any tips on how you save and how you splurge within that budget (and what percentage of your grocery budget is whole foods).  I think women (or the money manager in the home) will find this fascinating and helpful.   I know I will.

Mark Bittman: western lifestyle causing global warming


This is a great speech worth your time, by New York Times food writer Mark Bittman.   Did you know that our massive meat consumption (which has increased per capita 250 percent globally in the past 50 years) contributes to global warming?


Bittman discusses the history of food since 1900, and he talks about while the mission of “kindness to animals” is good, it’s a red herring and by no means the biggest issue, since we’re killing 10 billion animals annually, thus leading not only to heart disease, but a serious threat to global survival.   Thirty percent of the earth’s surface is devoted to animal production, and this is expected to double in the next 40 years or fewer, if our dietary habits continue.   And 18 percent of greenhouse gases are directly attributable to livestock production.


Processed foods also consume lots of the earth’s resources, with 1 billion cans of Coke consumed DAILY.


He says “locavore” is Webster’s word of the year: it refers to people who eat only food grown locally.   (If you live in Alaska, obviously this won’t be as easy as for people in California!)


Conservatives, beware: while this speaker/journalist is dead-on with  his facts (reads the same sources GreenSmoothieGirl quotes constantly), he’s the usual “liberal media.”    Of more concern is that  he doesn’t practice  what he preaches.   He doesn’t dare call for people to eat lower on the food chain, since he states multiple times that he eats plenty of meat and plans to continue, but he waters down his message saying that we need to be more “aware.”   Huh?   Aware that we are personally contributing to the profligacy of our generation, but do nothing about it?   If you’re aware meat and dairy is bad for you and consumes far more than your share of the Earth’s resources, why not change?


“You eat more plants, you eat less other stuff, you live longer.”


–Mark Bittman (a  speaker/writer who needs to lead by example)

fun with community supported agriculture


I just got home from picking up at our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) co-op.   We each paid $400 for a half share: weekly pickups of whatever they have, for a 4.5-month growing season.   Four friends and I take turns picking up.   It has been so much fun!   This week, we got baby carrots (put the tops in green smoothies), beet thinnings, bok choy, spring greens, onions, mustard greens, dandelion greens, and fresh mint.



I came home and was putting a green smoothie together.   While I did that, I quickly sauteed some of the boy choy, baby carrots, and the garlic from last week (some interesting variety that looks/is like an onion but tastes/smells like garlic).   I sprinkled it with sea salt and fresh pepper, tossed in some Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, and a couple teaspoons of agave.   Yum, dinner in five minutes!   It would have been good with brown rice, if I’d thought ahead to make some.   Or tossed with quinoa, which takes only 10 minutes to make.  


Last week one of the items were these little baby turnips.   My 12-year old daughter said, “This is the best thing that has ever been in my mouth, EVER.”


Bell Organic ( is in Draper, Utah, and although they sold out for the full season, they’re selling mid-season shares for August-October.   They are so adventurous with what they grow, and we’re consequently getting amazing variety in our green smoothies.


I highly recommend getting involved with a local CSA for 12 Steppers and anyone interested in increasing plant-food nutrition in your home.     You’ll not only get amazingly flavorful, organic produce at a fraction of the cost, but you’ll  make your family’s “footprint” on this earth  smaller.   Every bite of food you eat grown locally is a bite of food you DIDN’T eat that had to be shipped from somewhere else in the world that consumes packaging and nonrenewable fossil fuels.

Eating right while traveling internationally . . . part 1

Hello friends–I am back from touring 8 countries in the Far East.   Getting trapped by the landslides that had downtown Hong Kong under water the day we left was pretty exhausting.   Fortunately, they held the flight (and 150 others) for a few hours due to the fact that lots of the crew and passengers were missing.   Had we not been delayed almost an hour due to bureaucratic red tape getting off our ship, we probably would have been in one of the taxis floating down the harbor.


Instead, thanks to a lot of good karma, we were just in a taxi sitting on the freeway for almost 3 hours (a  futile taxi ride that eventually dumped us in the subway and cost $650 Hong Kong Ding Dongs, which is what I called their money after giving up on keeping track of all the currencies we used).   We miraculously got home to Utah right on time.


I have to confess that thinking and studying about how to achieve ideal nutrition for my family and yours seemed indulgent and petty in the face of what I saw.   Whole families in the Phillipines living on top of flattened cardboard boxes in the median of the road.   Others living in corrugated metal shacks.   Very young boys out in the ocean next to our ship on dilapidated boats fishing, just for their families to be able to eat.   The Sultan of Brunei living in obscene opulence while his people go without.   A young couple who chased our bus for 2 hours hoping to sell us a t-shirt, just because I smiled at them as they sped along next to us holding up the shirts and signaling the price.


And what broke my heart in two pieces: crippled and blind people begging in the streets in Vietnam.   They told us not to hand out money or we’d get mobbed, but HOW CAN YOU NOT?   I cried every time I saw one of them.   Where is the fairness in the world that some of us get to overindulge on 8-course meals on a cruise ship, while others are in a third-world country, without arms and legs, begging for spare change?


I came home with renewed commitment to do more with my energy and financial means to help people in these circumstances.   Tomorrow about how to live low on the food chain, even on a cruise ship.   Consuming fewer resources helps everyone.